I interviewed two elementary school teachers who work in my school, one in primary and the other in the junior division. I work in the intermediate division so this gave a good cross section for discussion around the use of technology in the math and science classes we teach. The interview was held informally in my classroom after school. Every classroom in the school has a mounted Smartboard and projector, a document camera, and laptop. For clarity, our age range is from 46-56, so we are not digital natives as most technology has been developed after we had completed our education.
The first teacher TM, teaches a grade 2/3 split class and has been teaching for 15 years in the primary division. She is not quite a technophobe, but she admits to not being totally comfortable with technology and often requires a lot of support to integrate it into her classroom. She is fairly comfortable using her Smartboard, but in limited ways to show videos and use pre-selected programs. She uses her document camera extensively to moderate student work and to show examples.
The second teacher TC, is a long term occasional teacher in a grade 6/7 classroom, and has been teaching on a supply basis for five years. This is her second full year as an LTO at our school. As a more recent graduate from teacher’s college, she is more aware of different programs that are available for education. She also uses the Smartboard consistently as a screen to showcase programs, videos, or games, but does not use the Smart Notebook as a tool. The hovercam is also a tool that she uses on a regular basis.
To add to the mix, I teach grade 7 and have been teaching for 15 years also. I use my Smartboard every day incorporating a lot of the Smart Notebook lessons into my day, as a screen to show videos or internet sites, as the platform for our Classcraft activities, and as a place to show the students what has been entered into Edmodo or Google Classroom. I also have the use of a document camera as a way to moderate student work, take up work and show examples in real time.
One of the overarching themes that came through in the discussion was the lack of training to integrate technology into the classroom, whether it was for new teachers in teacher’s college or established teachers attempting to use it in the classroom. Both teachers felt that there was a big push for teachers to use different types of technology in the classroom, but that there was no real training to back up the initiative. Any knowledge or skills acquired were usually done on the initiative of the teacher themselves or it was a one off PD session with no follow up or time to practice. TM noted that “any pursuit of professional development must be on your own time, you must seek it out on your own” and TC echoed that with “it is not available in the school and we are not given enough time to practice and apply our new knowledge.” I added that any real knowledge or understanding of the technology that I use in my classroom has come from my own initiative, finding courses online, or seeking out courses offered through the Board of Ed or my union. All of us agreed that if there were better training and time given to practice and apply the knowledge, there would be a greater integration of technology into all the subjects at a higher order level than just using them for typing or research. It was also felt that this would give more established teachers a higher comfort level using technology as it does not come naturally to us, it is not our culture so there is a higher learning curve for many of us.
Tying in with this was the idea of being an expert in using technology is necessary for it to be used effectively in the classroom. Both teachers disagreed with this, but added that it helps. TM stated that it is not necessary but it helps, the less expertise you have in the technology, the more time consuming it is to use it and therefore prohibitive to teachers under a curriculum time constraint.” This underlines the idea seen in some of the videos that some programs are too time consuming to institute effectively in the classroom and teachers do not feel they have the time to devote to it. TC added that many established teachers have an issue with students being more competent and knowledgeable around technology and viewed it as a weakness on their part.”
The major hurdle or challenge for these teachers was accessibility, of the devices and of training or assistance. Devices in the school have to be signed out through the library and are often not available when it is an optimum time for them to be used. TM explained that there are no teachable moments when we can just turn and use the technology in a seamless way as they would have needed to be signed out a week in advance, and I don’t have ESP to be able to know exactly when something like that will occur in the class.” It is difficult to know where you will be in your pacing of subjects to be able to determine when it will be the best time to sign them out. It is impossible to use them in the way they should be integrated as they are used in real life applications. TC added that when the devices freeze or crash there is a lot of lost time trying to fix it, or reboot it, and we lose the class’ attention while they wait. Often it is something we can’t fix and it takes days or weeks before someone from the board will take care of it.” , essentially making the technology inaccessible to the classroom while we are waiting for it to be functional.
We concluded that in order for us to move forward with more seamless integration of technology in the math and science subjects, or in the classroom culture overall, there would need to be more deliberate and ongoing training for teachers in up-to-date software and new hardware offered by the Board within the school day much as the math and language initiatives have been over the years. That students and teachers need to be immersed in the subject with the devices to be able to use them seamlessly and to a higher order level in order to transform learning.
My colleagues and I thought it would be interesting to take the discussion and put it into a word cloud to see what popped out the most.
To see the questions and transcription of my interviews, please check them out on my efolio webpage at http://etec533annewinch.weebly.com/